Despite all the buzz, the only thing new about ‘Quiet Quitting’ is the catchy term. No matter the label (involution, lying flat, QuitTok, cubicle sabbatical, etc.), there have always been disengaged employees.
In fact, researchers have been studying employee turnover for over 100 years, and coined the term “reluctant stayer” for this kind of employee who wants to leave but doesn’t (or can’t).
Who exactly is quitting?
No one. Today, it’s more likely that tired employees need to step back to care for their mental health and wellbeing. The pandemic has been hard on us all and has left many of us drained. Maybe it takes a bit longer than usual to answer emails, write reports or accomplish key tasks. Maybe employees need to log off a bit earlier to take a mental health break.
Does this mean they’re less productive? Not in our case. We encourage our team members to take the time to step back and recharge through Flex Days and flexible work schedules, so they can show up ready to give it their all. And they do.
I think people are motivated to do their best and adults can be trusted to be productive because they want to be and because work provides purpose."
Ultimately, it’s about trusting your employees to do good work and creating a non-judgmental space for them to do it. We all have good days and bad days, so try not to judge your employees minute by minute. Instead, look at the big picture—how they perform every week, month or year, and consider the things outside of work that might be causing them stress.
In today’s tight market, with more open roles than available workers to fill them, retention is top of mind for many employers, so it’s key to try to inspire all employees to become more engaged at work—encouraging them to become ‘enthusiastic stayers.’
Here are some ways to help them get there.
Four steps to increase engagement
As a remote-first organization, with a team spread across the country and about 60% choosing hybrid work, our leaders are trained to manage hybrid teams, be empathetic, look for signs of disengagement and work with these team members to develop a plan.
Here are some of the things our leaders do:
1. We conduct regular stay interviews and ask our employees pointed questions to determine their level of engagement. How do they feel in their role? How would they rate their happiness on a scale of 1 to 10? If they’re anything less than an 8, we make adjustments (new seat, new leader, new responsibilities).
2. We assess workload. In a virtual environment, it’s hard for leaders to see when team members are overworked, so we intentionally ask if our employees’ plates are too full. People work more effectively with smaller, more manageable to-do lists, so we aim to keep tasks to a short list of the 3-5 most important things.
3. We give space to disconnect. We discourage non-urgent communications after core hours (ask us about our “Right to Disconnect policy”), offer every 10th workday as a paid “Flex Day” to help our team refresh and reset, and are open to sabbaticals for those who need a longer break.
4. We offer stretch assignments to spark creative thinking. No one likes to feel stuck, so we help our team explore new ideas and opportunities that interest them. For example, employees can help develop training materials, work on our new website, join our DEI committee, help organize online events or mentor new team members.
And of course, if the employee is still disengaged, it might be time for them to consider a new role outside the organization. Whenever this happens, we work with team members to support them in taking the next step on their journey. We want our team members to be engaged and excited about the work they do—even if it sometimes means leaving our organization.
If and when an employee leaves our company, we strive to ensure that we have parted on positive terms – and that we are each other’s advocates. We use our exit interviews to inform our people strategies for the year ahead and keep in touch with employees who have left. Sometimes, they return to us when they are ready (the so-called Boomerang employee).
We’re not keen on using the term Quiet Quitter. Instead, we actively seek to increase engagement and work with ‘Reluctant Stayers,’ encouraging them to become excited about staying. A person seeking to balance their work and home lives, striving to give what they can, is not a quitter in our view.
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